The Senate and House Appropriations Committees began their 2009 amended and 2010 general budget hearings on Jan. 21 at the state Capitol. The meetings began with Gov. Sonny Perdue outlining his budget proposals. Lawmakers then heard presentations from the Departments of Revenue, Education, Natural Resources, Judicial Branch, Corrections, Transportation, Public Safety, Economic Development, Human Resources and Community Health. These presentations focused on what impact a $2.2 billion budget shortfall will have on their programs and the difficulties in the 2010 budget.
While addressing the Joint Committee, Gov. Perdue recommended ending the property tax relief grant program that saves many homeowners $200 to $300 a year. According to Gov. Perdue, the state simply cannot afford the $428 million-a-year cost of the grants. If legislators wish to keep the grants, we will be forced to come up with an extra $428 million on top of the $2 billion in spending cuts Gov. Perdue has proposed.
Revenue generating proposals
Two revenue proposals were included in the governor’s 2010 budget:
1.) Provider tax — A tax would be placed on private health insurance companies and hospitals and would continue a fee on care management organizations. Next week’s column will explore this proposal which generates several hundred million dollars annually.
2.) “Super Speeder” legislation — Gov. Perdue also encouraged the passage of his “Super Speeder” legislation, where fines for excess speeding will be dedicated to funding a trauma care network. This legislation would hold drivers who travel at high speeds (over 85 mph anywhere in Georgia and over 75 mph on two-lane roads), drive drunk or repeatedly violate the state’s traffic laws accountable. This extra fine would generate approximately $23 million.
• Speeding offenses — All “super speeders” would receive an additional fine of $200 to be administered by DDS.
• Poor driving history — Increase driver’s license reinstatement fees for drivers who commit a second and third offense for driving violations which result in a license suspension. Additional $100 reinstatement fee for second offense and an additional $200 reinstatement fee for third and subsequent offenses.
• Insurance conviction violation — Increase reinstatement fee for insurance conviction violation, $210 for first offense and $310 for second and subsequent offenses.
• Failure to appear — Increase reinstatement fee for violation of failure to appear in court for traffic violations to $100.
School nurse funding
While giving her presentation on the Department of Education, Superintendent Kathy Cox addressed the governor’s proposal to eliminate the funding for school nurses in 2010. The state currently spends $30 million a year to fund this program and many state legislators are concerned that some school districts will not continue to pay for school nurses if the state stops funding the program. With local funds added in, this is approximately a $55 million program.
National board certified teacher program
There are approximately 1,924 teachers in Georgia who have earned the National Board Certified Teacher designation, a rigorous process taking two years to complete. These teachers qualified for a 10-year, 10 percent increase in pay as a result of achieving this certification. Since 2006, NBCT teachers must teach in a high needs school to receive the increase.
Gov. Perdue has proposed to end the program costing $12.3 million. This is very controversial since those NBCT teachers believe a commitment was made to them for a 10-year period.
Want to keep up with the Legislature? Here’s how:
• Budget process and information — Visit the Senate Budget and Evaluation Office site for information on Georgia’s budget. Access can be gained through the Georgia home site. http://www.legis.ga.gov/legis/2009_10/senate/aboutsbo.htm
• The White Book — Shows photographs and bios of all 236 Georgia Legislators. Downloadable copies are available at www.legis.state.ga.us. Some photos however bear little resemblance to actual legislators.
• General Assembly’s home page — Provides links to House and Senate members by both name and district. Allows you to track legislation, view a bill in its entirety, and see roll call votes. www.legis.state.ga.us
• How to track bills (in person) — Hard copies can be found in the House Clerk’s Office (Room 309) and the Secretary of the Senate’s Office (Room 353). Committee notices are posted daily outside of both offices.
• Transparency in Government Web site — Gateway for obtaining information and key documents about how the state of Georgia spends tax dollars and other revenues to provide services to Georgians. The information maintained on this site comes from various state agencies and is updated annually. http://www.open.georgia.gov/
I may be reached at
234 State Capitol, Atlanta, GA 30334
(404) 656-5038 (phone)
(404) 657-7094 (fax)
E-mail at Jack.Hill@senate.ga.gov
Or call toll-free at
1-800-367-3334 day or night
Reidsville office: (912) 557-3811